Here’s an unedited piece I wrote for J Mag a few months back:
Hypothetically speaking, if someone offered to grant me one super power I would know what to say and would answer straight away, unequivocally. Forget flying, invisibility, super strength, x-ray vision. What I’m interested in is the power to fall asleep at will, anywhere, anytime.
It is this skill, above any other, which would serve me best in this erratic profession I find myself in called ‘touring musician.’ Who needs the Blues Scale?
Even off the road I’m neurotic about my sleeping conditions. I need an open window, even in winter. I cannot have any digital clock visible, for if I were to accidentally open my eye and see the time that would ruin everything. A ticking clock, forget it! Towels are thrown over any glowing LED lights on offending electrical appliances.
Mostly on overseas tours the economic situation means a hotel is out of the question. To save money you come to rely on the kindness of strangers. Occasionally there’s a friend to bail you out with some floor space if you’re lucky but more often then not you’ll find yourself gingerly soliciting the audience over the mic for a roof under which to slumber. In doing this you’re throwing yourself into a nightmare of unknown sleeping variables.
Here are some things I’ve been told whilst pointed toward my sleeping quarters:
“Oh, sleep on the left. I think the cat has pissed on the other side.”
“This is my flatmates bed. You can sleep there but he might come home later after the nightclub closes.”
“Please forgive the blood stains. They were there when we found it.”
“Sorry about the carpet smell. The dog hasn’t been allowed out for months, what with all this rain.”
As I lay me down to rest on never vacuumed carpet with a beach towel pillow and someones overcoat for a blanket the words “Character Building” haunt me awake. Damn character.
As the days drag on, show after show, physical and mental fatigue sets in and you’d give up your strumming arm for your own bed. Others have adapted better. While hurling down the highway in the tour van I glare in envy at my keyboard player Cory curled up on the backseat between a drum case and a guitar amp. He is dreaming. Like a wombat he’s always able to make himself a comfortable nest no matter how small the space available or the bodily contortions needed to get into it. I’m bolt upright and try to shut my eyes but my brain starts filling with probabilities of road accidents.
Sometimes the bed is warm and comfortable but it’s a snoring band mate that’s your undoing. Another touring companion taught me to always carry earplugs and a spare t-shirt to wrap around your head like a mummy to shut the world out. But this can also cause you to miss the breakfast alarm, or sometimes even a flight.
But then the tour is over and I’m sitting in a bar with friends boasting about my sleeping war stories.
“So I went back to her place and collapsed on a spare bed. I dreamt all night about lying on the ground in a beautiful forest. When I woke up I realised I’d passed out on her Mums dried flower arrangements.” They all stare back at me wide-eyed. I feel like a somno-hero.
I’m not surprised after all the shows played and countries traversed it’s all these post-gig sleeping arrangements that have stuck my mind. Under a kitchen table. Next to the photocopier in a Tokyo highrise office block. On the stage itself. In the bushes on a Los Angeles traffic island. Behind the couch in a squat house.
I open my eyes behind that very couch and it feels like a miracle. “I slept!… who needs you Hilton, with your lavish foyer and mini bar bills!”
I wake up and flick off the cigarette butt stuck to my forehead, stretch the kinks out of my back and go out to help pack the van.